Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #154 (February 12th, 2007)

I mean, what was it? Two whole WEEKS of excerpts from

Dave Sim Collected Letters Vol.2?

Two whole WEEKS of getting irritated and then

MORE irritated and then MORE irritated and then

BOOM! The letter just drops right off in the

As those of you with long memories will recall, my new comics acquisitions on my last trip to Toronto had proved to be something of a personal bust, a major disappointment because reading comics on the return bus trip to Kitchener is such a tradition with me. Fortunately this time I had my ace in the hole: the long-delayed second issue of the new Gumby series by Bob Burden and Rick Geary. It's a hefty package at 34 beautifully drawn and coloured pages for $3.95 US. From the cover on in, this comic book just defines the term "unpredictable". There's Gumby on the cover with enlarged pinwheel eyes in a circus sideshow with Hebraic lettering on his forehead (!!!) and the title "Behold the Golem!" Gumby as a Golem?! How could I not pick this one up? It too me back to the old Mort Weisinger Superman where you'd go to the drug store and there was Superman having a big fight with Samson and a Hercules. I don't even know who Samson and Hercules are, but how can I not pick this up? What a great way for kids to get introduced to what a Golem is. Oh, right. Like in my Gumby comic. Bob Burden has a remarkable narrative sense for the "All Ages" category (a narrative sense previously unsuspected by me, I must say, and I was the first one to publish Bob in the direct market). He builds the story carefully and with a keen eye of sharp memory on childhood. I remember my childhood pretty clearly, but Bob puts my own thoroughness to shame. How does he remember all this stuff so vividly? He does first love amazingly well, all the over-amplified jealousies and shifting loyalties we experience as children before puberty steps in and really takes things off in a weird direction. That pre-pubescent point where girls stop being icky and start being something weird and wonderful (I was 9 but I was a little precocious). The story is a real page turner. And just when I would think Bob couldn't get any stranger than this, he would bring in the astral image of Johnny Cash! I kid you not. He even did a frontispiece so we would all have fair warning. Get ready: the astral image of Johnny Cash singing "Burning Ring of Fire" figures prominently in this one.

Bob's scripts have certainly brought out the best in Rick Geary, a dramatically underrated artist in my view. My only concern at this point is wondering if the two of them can stick with the title long enough for it to enjoy the success it obviously deserves. I mean, if it's this good at issue two, what might issue TEN be like? The mind boggles. Although I must admit that my loyalties would be torn if it became an either/or question of further Rick Geary A Treasury of Victorian Murder graphic novels (I've got Lizzie Borden, Abraham Lincoln and Jack the Ripper and am always on the lookout for the next one) or new Bob Burden issues of Flaming Carrot. It's really become a touchstone philosophy in the comic-book field: "No Rest for the Accomplished". As far as I'm concerned it seems only right that Bob and Rick Geary will just have to give up everything in their lives besides writing and drawing comics so I can have Victorian Murder, Flaming Carrot AND Gumby on a regular basis. Am I ever glad that I made it clear that there would be ONLY three hundred issues of Cerebus. A clear example of "heading them off at the pass".

Anyway, everyone responsible for this title—most especially Mel Smith, editor and coordinator and Steve Oliff for his colours—gets a major two thumbs up from Dave Sim for helping to salvage his return bus trip from Toronto. I can't wait for issue three! Ordering information available at www.gumbycomics.com

Okay, so I arrived back home and found that I had a package from ACTOR (now renamed HERO) which Jim McLauchlin had promised me was on its way which included my contributors copies ACTOR Comics Presents. And there I was on the cover—one of the headliners! Yes, strange but true. "SIM": Right after Stan Lee, Linsner, Waid and Dini. Heady company. They don't come along every day, but there are these moments when the Pariah King of Comics feels decidedly less Pariah-like and this was one of them. I have to say that this issue's Stan Lee story is my new favourite Stan Lee story of all time. I'm sure they still have a bunch of these available so why not order a copy and see if you don't agree with me that this is one of the best (if not THE best) Stan Lee stories of all time? www.HeroInitiative.org.

Also in the package were two copies of Ultimate Spider-man issue 100 which Jim had told me about over the phone. As you might have seen in your local newspaper Marvel was having a bit of a celebration that Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley were about to become the first Marvel creative team since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on the Fantastic Four to do a hundred consecutive issues of one title. It became a bit controversial (as claims go) with a number of you Yahoos pointing out that the Pariah King of Comics and Gerhard had done 236 consecutive issues and Mark Evanier pointing out that he and Sergio Aragones had broken the 100 consecutive issue streak with Groo as part of Marvel's own Epic Comics line. Which got more peculiar when Marvel announced that Groo didn't qualify as a Marvel title because it was creator-owned! I appreciated people—especially Jeff Seiler who contacted the Dallas Morning News to run a correction: thanks, Jeff!—feeling bad on my behalf, but it's really sincerely misplaced in this case. A hundred issues is a hundred issues and there are only so many people in the Century Club and only those in the Century Club know exactly how hard it is to do that many consecutive issues of a title so the last thing anyone wants to do (or the last thing the Pariah King of Comics wants to do) is to dump on anyone who has subjected themselves to and endured the gauntlet of that singular form of creative torture. Also, doing comics in a corporate context comes with its own brand of trouble and impediments. To do a hundred consecutive issues of a comic book in a context where it often isn't clear who is running the show or what they want or what they will allow today and still allow tomorrow—well, let's just say that Mark and Sergio and Ger and the Pariah King of Comics never experienced that particular series of high hurdles in addition to the problems inherent in writing and drawing that many comic pages.

So, anyway, Jim told me that Marvel was printing up a batch of Ultimate Spider-man #100 with the cover image blanked out and was sending them to HERO to forward to 100 different cartoonists to embellish and to auction to benefit HERO and that they were wondering if the Pariah King of Comics would do one. Well, hey, it's not often that you get two sincerely non-Pariah moments in one Fed Ex box (I have to say that Jim McLauchlin and his ACTOR people have always treated me with the utmost respect) and I readily agreed. In fact, to mark just so extraordinary achievement struck me as calling for a completely unprecedented contribution from the Pariah King of Comics: Dave Sim doing his first ever Spider-Ham cover!

[For those not aware of the history, way back when the earth was still cooling and I had done my three consecutive Wolverroach covers on Cerebus 54, 55 and 56—thereby sincerely pushing the boundary between misappropriation of a trademarked character and legitimate parody—I suspect that Marvel decided to fire a warning shot across my bow by coming up with a funny animal version of Spider-man that was basically Cerebus in a Spider-man costume. I don't know whose idea it was (Jim Shooter his own self?) but I have to say that I always admired the thinking behind it. It was a very measured response along the lines of "See? How do YOU like it?" while also a creative one and, ultimately, a profitable one! According to my Overstreet Guide, Peter Porker, The Spectacular Spider-Ham ran for seventeen issues from May 1985 to September 1987 as part of Marvel's Star Comics children's line. Not a bad run for the mid-80s]

Anyway, I always thought it would be interesting if an opportunity arose where I could draw Spider-Ham (just for the experience if nothing else) and this benefit project seemed like the moment I had been waiting for. So, straight off the bus from Toronto, there I was photocopying Steve Ditko's cover to Spider-man No.24 from an Essential Spider-man volume and tracing it off, size as, onto the blank Ultimate Spider-man #100 cover and then tightening it up in pencil. The next day I went looking for my copy of Spider-man No.24 so I could colour the cover before inking it and try to match the colours as closely as I could. I found my other four original Ditko Spider-man copies, but could not find my copy of issue No.24 anywhere. I phoned Pete Dixon at Paradise Comics to see if he could send me a colour photocopy of the cover or bring a copy up that I could borrow. I had no idea that I was about to be felled by the Seriously Strange Illness in roughly 48 hours and that that would be it for me and drawing and writing for a good month. I was going to let Jim McLauchlin and the HERO folks down big time (the deadline was January 15). As you can see, this is still as far as I have gotten. I figure what I will do is run this pencilled version here and then try again to find some colour reference for it and watercolour it and ink it and maybe HERO can auction it later in the year as the Last of the 100 Versions of Ultimate Spider-man 100. And maybe some generous Cerebus Yahoo will bid WAY,WAY, too much money for it so Jim McLauchlin will forgive me.

Anyway, major hats off and cheers to Bendis and Bagley on their remarkable achievement and to Marvel for coming up with such an original way to celebrate that achievement and to raise some money for a worthy cause.

I'm here to do my part, I'm just going to be unbelievably late doing it. Hope everyone likes the tight pencilled version, anyway.

Tomorrow: Biography of a Commission. John H.'s "Cerebus as Han Solo: Jaka as Princess Leia" piece gets underway and then becomes The Sickbed Commission That Would Never End

If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:

Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Station C
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2

Looking for a place to purchase Cerebus phonebooks? You can do so online through Win-Mill Productions -- producers of Following Cerebus. Convenient payment with PayPal:

Win-Mill Productions

Or, you can check out Mars Import:

Mars Import

Or ask your local retailer to order them for you through Diamond Comics distributors. Here are the Diamond Star System codes:

Cerebus #1-25 $30.00 STAR00070

High Society #26-50 $30.00 STAR00071

Church and State I #52-80 $35.00 STAR00271

Church and State II #81-111 $35.00 STAR00321

Jaka's Story #114-136 $30.00 STAR00359

Melmoth #139-150 $20.00 STAR00431

Flight #151-162 $20.00 STAR00543

Women #163-174 $20.00 STAR00849

Reads #175-186 $20.00 STAR01063

Minds #187-200 $20.00 STAR01916

Guys #201-219 $25.00 STAR06972

Rick's Story #220-231 $20.00 STAR08468

Going Home I #232-250 $30.00 STAR10981

Form and Void #251-265 $30.00 STAR13500

Latter Days #266 - 288 $35.00 AUG031920

The Last Day #289 - 300 $25.00 APR042189

Collected Letters - $30 FEB052434